Stone Tidal Weirs, Underwater Cultural Heritage or Not?

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Stone Tidal Weirs, Underwater Cultural Heritage or Not?


The stone tidal weir is a kind of fish trap, made of numerous rocks or reef limestones, which extends along the shoreline on a colossal scale in semicircular, half-quadrilateral, or almost linear shape. At the flood tide these weirs are submerged beneath the sea, while they emerge into full view at the ebb. Using with nets or tridents, fishermen, inside the weirs at low tides, catch fish that fails to escape because of the stone walls. They could be observed in the Pacific or the Yap Islands, in the Indian Ocean or the east African coast, and in the Atlantic or Oleron and Ré Islands. The UNESCO’s 2001 Convention regards this weir as underwater cultural heritage, because it has been partially or totally under water, periodically or continuously, for at least 100 years; stone tidal weirs have been built in France since the 11th century and a historical record notes that one weir in the Ryukyu Islands was built in the 17th century. In Japan every weir is considered not to be buried cultural property or cultural heritage investigated by archaeologists, but to be folk cultural asset studied by anthropologists, according to its domestic law for the protection of cultural properties. Even now in many countries stone tidal weirs are continuously built or restored by locals. Owing to the contemporary trait, it is not easy to preserve them under the name of underwater cultural heritage. Sometimes their bases were constructed several hundred years ago while their upper parts were repaired very recently.


Akifumi Iwabuchi, in Van Tilburg, H., Tripati, S., Walker Vadillo, V., Fahy, B., and Kimura, J. (eds.)





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